Miller County bracing for Laura

hurricane
This satellite image released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Tropical Storm Laura in the North Atlantic Ocean, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. Laura formed Friday in the eastern Caribbean and forecasters said it poses a potential hurricane threat to Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast. A second storm also may hit the U.S. after running into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. (NOAA via AP)

TEXARKANA — The Miller County office of emergency management is advising residents to prepare for the effects of Hurricane Laura, which is slated to hit the area as early as Thursday morning.

According to the National Weather Service in Shreveport, the Miller County area is expected to see the storm’s impact at 7:00 a.m. Thursday with 20 MPH wins, which could increase to around 55 MPH by 5:00 p.m. and then possibly 68 MPH around 10:00 p.m.

There is also a flash flood watch in effect until Friday. Portions of southwest and western Arkansas have been running five to 10 inches above average rainfall. The flash flooding could be an issue as Laura moves into Arkansas, where it is expected to still have tropical storm strength. The saturated ground means that sustained wins could topple trees.

Office of emergency management director Joe Bennett says sustained winds could be 30 to 55 MPH with gusts up to 90 MPH. From four to six inches of rainfall is expected depending on how fast the storm moves through the area. The prime time for flash flooding could occur all day Thursday. Any tornadic activity is expected north and northeast of the area as such storms have the tendency to spur off tornadoes.

Anyone seeking shelter should contact the Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS. COVID-19 has restricted the opening of some shelters. The office of emergency management says there are two safe rooms in the city of Texarkana, Arkansas. Area hotels will be open and have released restrictions on out of town evacuees from Texas and Louisiana.

Shelters or churches that wish the remain open are asked to contact the office of emergency management. The LifeHouse Church on East Street will be open as needed as well as the First Baptist Church of Fouke. The Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief has also offered assistance.

The office of emergency management believes many who have already fled the hurricane in the south have decided to stay in hotel rooms in Texarkana. Electrical companies have also converged on Texarkana to respond to outages and have booked rooms in area hotels.

Residents should confer with family and neighbors on contingency plans, the office of emergency management says, and not wait for the storms to arrive to start preparing.

UAHT will be closed Thursday as will Genoa schools, Texarkana Arkansas School District, and Hope schools. Fouke has not decided whether or not they will close. Bowie County superintendents are also conferring to decide whether to close schools or not.

The office of emergency management advises residents to prepare to access weather information if power is offline with a NOAA weather radio.